Pork Carnitas Tacos Recipe

5 from 1 vote
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I LOVE pork carnitas tacos. Pork shoulder (or pork butt) slow-roasted in a slow cooker with pineapple juice and spices until it easily shreds apart. The best part? It’s the perfect crispy meat for tacos, pulled pork sliders, pulled pork quesadillas, and more….and you’ll have plenty of leftover pulled pork to try all three of these recipes.

Pork Carnitas Tacos Recipe

My pork carnitas tacos recipe is served as a small corn tortilla street taco with fresh cilantro, diced onions, lime wedges, and a creamy lime sauce for a simple and delicious taco.

If you’re looking for more delicious taco recipes like this, try my easy chicken birria tacos, spicy shrimp tacos, and authentic carne asada tacos! All of these recipes also pair really nicely with my cilantro lime rice recipe.

Dry Rub and Seasoning

I rub the pork with a simple blend of cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper, and cook in pineapple juice, a splash of beer, garlic, and chopped onions. It’s a flavorful blend of sweet, citrusy, and salty ingredients that pairs well with just about anything.

My only tip here is to do a good job rubbing the spices into the meat so it really soaks in during the cooking process.

Removing the Fat Cap

The fat cap is a thick, tough layer of white fat that sits on top of larger cuts of pork, such as butts and shoulders. I opted to remove the majority of the surface fat cap so the dry rub could better penetrate and soak into the meat. You don’t need to go crazy removing the fat, a little is OK. In general, a pork shoulder or butt will have enough fat throughout the meat to keep it tender and juicy either way.

Just to note, this step is optional and you can leave it on to cook, you just may have to remove it after cooking as it won’t entirely break down.

Slow Cooker Carnitas

This recipe involves slowly roasting the pork for 4-12 hours depending on the cooking temp and size of the pork. A 4-5 pound boneless, skinless pork shoulder or pork butt is ideal for this recipe and will take about 8 hours to cook on low cook mode in a slow cooker.

Weight (lb)Low CookHigh Cook
3-5 lb6-8 hours4-6 hours
6-8 lb10-12 hours6-8 hours

Note: Shoot for an internal temp of around 200°F. Pork will be very tender and easily shred at 200 °F. Anything less, 145 °F for example, will be very tough pork.

Pork shoulder in crockpot

Toasting the Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas tend to be more brittle than flour tortillas. I prefer to briefly toast my tortillas in a pan or using the oven’s broiler. It works much better than steaming and tastes phenomenal. Either way, it prevents the tortillas from cracking or falling apart when handled.

On the stove: Sear in a large pan on medium heat with cooking spray. 1 minute per side should do the trick.

Using the broiler: You can also broil on high on a baking sheet, 8 inches from the heat source for 2-3 minutes (no flipping needed).

At a bare minimum, steam in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel for 30 seconds.

Creamy Lime Sauce

The sauce is optional, but a nice addition. It’s a really simple sour-cream-based sauce made with fresh lime juice and water. It serves as a mild and creamy sauce that can be easily drizzled over the tacos and brings out the flavors in the pork.

Pork Carnitas Tacos Recipe

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5 from 1 vote

Pork Carnitas Tacos Recipe

Servings: 10
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 8 hours
Total: 8 hours 15 minutes
Slow roasted, slow cooker pork carnitas served with corn tortillas, fresh cilantro, diced onions, lime wedges, and a creamy lime sauce for a simple and delicious street taco.

Ingredients 

Pork Carnitas

  • 3-4 pound skinless, boneless pork shoulder or butt (bone-in OK too)
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Splash of beer, optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Tacos

  • 6- inch corn tortillas
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • Fresh cilantro, for serving
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • Hot sauce, optional

Simple creamy lime sauce (optional)

  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 lime, juice squeezed
  • 2 tablespoons water
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Instructions 

  • Remove pork from the packaging and rinse with cool water. Pat dry with a paper towel. If the meat contains the fat cap (firm white fatty layer), see note below on removal.
  • Combine paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper (to taste) in a small bowl and mix. Rub pork all over with dry rub. Place in a slow cooker and pour pineapple juice and optional beer over the pork. Add in chopped onion and garlic. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 6-8 hours, or high heat setting for 5-6 hours (until the meat easily pulls apart/shreds with two forks). Shoot for an internal temp of 200 °F.
  • Shred the pork using two forks. You can remove the whole roast from the slow cooker and shred on a platter, or shred right in the slow cooker. Shredding in the slow cooker allows the meat to soak up some of the juices. Either way, do not discard the juices yet.

Broiling/crisping the pork

  • Arguably the most important step. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pulled pork from the slow cooker. Place on a foil-lined 11X17 baking sheet or in a cast-iron skillet and drizzle with little extra juice from the slow cooker. Broil on high for 3-5 minutes until the meat starts to brown/crisp. This lends a little caramelization and crispy texture.
  • Serve warm with toasted corn tortillas, lime wedges, diced onions, hot sauce, and creamy lime sauce.

Creamy Lime Sauce

  • Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir until smooth and slightly runny. Add more water if too thick. This can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.
  •  

Notes

Fat cap: I would recommend using a serrated knife to shave the fat cap off. Pork shoulder contains enough fat to render juicy tender meat. You don’t have to completely remove all fat, but it allows the spices to penetrate the meat.
Large pork: I’ve cooked as large as a 9-pound bone-in pork shoulder for this recipe. This will take around 10-12 hours on low heat to cook.
Internal temp: Shoot for an internal temp of around 200 °F. Pork will be very tender and easily shred at 200 °F. Anything less, 145 °F for example, will be very tough pork.

Nutrition

Serving: 2tacosCalories: 516kcalCarbohydrates: 31.6gProtein: 25.8gFat: 31.8gSaturated Fat: 11.1gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 118mgFiber: 3.1gSugar: 4.5g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
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About Shawn Williams

My name is Shawn, author behind Kitchen Swagger. I'm a food & drink enthusiast bringing you my own simple and delicious restaurant-inspired recipes.

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